Cornwall ON – Liberal strategy for the fall session of parliament is certainly interesting. Despite their spin, the decision to keep their leader out of the House of Commons and out of question period means they have decided he can’t stand up to Harper in there.
Ignatieff is a decent person and no doubt question period in its present format is tough on him, but it is equally tough on his opponents. Does it get ugly in the House? Yes it does and it is pretty well guaranteed to stay that way unless some of Michael Chong’s remedies are adopted.
I can’t think of any Canadian politician who became Prime Minister by not showing up for work. Come to think of it, in the Senate he would be docked pay if he were absent to many days. Plus, holding the government to account in the House is part of the job description for the Leader of the Official Opposition. While it can be unpleasant at times, it’s a good training ground should you ever have the opportunity to sit on the other side of the House as Prime Minister. Unless of course you don’t plan to show up as Prime Minister should you occupy that position some day?
The key for an opposition leader in question period is to look like you are someone who can lead the country. It’s not their role to be an attack dog or to come up with one line zingers. Looking and acting like a leader and having substance are far more important than waving your arms and shouting insults and pre-scripted attack lines.
If Canadians are going to elect Ignatieff they will want to take the measure of him. With this new Liberal strategy they will see Ralph Goodale and Bob Rae leading the charge. This will be offer a good career boost for those two and certainly a good one for Rae if he still aspires to be the leader. It should also help Jack Layton as he becomes the only other national party leader to question the Prime Minister on a daily basis.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister can help to set the tone in question period. This Prime Minister enjoys questions of substance, so ask him some. A civil exchange between two leaders will force others to do the same. There will always be bullies on both sides of the House, but let’s start with civility at the top first.
Canadians will get to see the liberal second stringers asking the Prime Minister questions while their leader wanders around kissing babies and taking questions in a more gentile environment. How long do they think it will take the Conservatives to pounce on his absence and make it an issue? How long will it take before the national media start counting the number of days he is not present in question period?
Certainly an interesting strategy, but in the end it still means the liberals have decided Ignatieff can’t cut it in question period.